In Their Own Words - Rosemary Casey

By Rosemary Casey
August 2013

Visit artist page

Music has always held a special place in my heart as far back as I can remember as a kid. Growing up in New Jersey, I remember the days when going to bed with a transistor radio under your pillow meant I had the COOLEST PARENTS - which proved to be true! (And probably led to the best dream I ever had ... in it the band CHICAGO played in the back yard of the house I grew up in! I remember it to this day.) Then there were the neighborhood block parties, with dancing in the street to The Jackson Five. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to take flute lessons and play in the Bells Elementary School Band grades 4-6. That, and the "Elementary Method" music book books complete with fingering charts were my formative musical years. I continued on this path throug and high school. Public education and some private lessons, thanks to my parents, provided me a solid music grounding theoretically, but as a teenager “into” rock and roll and later jazz and blues, the classical music pieces, like the magic flute, were not entirely cutting it for me. The only rock flute player I could aspire to being was Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. When I was 13 years old my parents moved back to New England. (they grew up in Brookline)

When I was 16 years old I was invited to go hear my first local blues band, The Bobby Watson Band, fronted by the gifted Peter Henderson (guitar/harp/vocals and a good friend of mine to this day … and the best kept secret is ... he runs the BEST BLUES JAM every Sunday at Johnstones Public House -- the old INN -- in Ashland MA). Well, I am pretty sure Pete invented the original blues jam at the Pizza Pub/Rt. 9 Framingham (many long time blues musicians probably remember it). Pete had two really great tenor sax players in his band at the time and I instantly fell in love with the saxaphone, I would go hear them as often as I could and one night I was talking with one of the horn players, Kerry Blount from Greenfield MA (and my first favorite sax player, and a Berklee grad), about how much I loved the sax and that I played the flute but wished I could play the sax, and he told me "if you can play the flute, you can play the sax!" He was like a GOD that night. I said, "REALLY, why is that"? He said because the fingerings were very similar and easy to transform one to the other, which of course I had NO IDEA. I was so excited. Then somehow I randomly, vaguely, remembered something ... like a hazy dream ... did my Dad once tell me that his mother had bought him a saxophone but he never played it? So, I hesitantly asked my Dad the next day, "Dad, did I dream this or did you once tell me your mother bought you a Sax?", because I know I had never seen it. He said, "Yes, I think we may still have it under the bed or in a crawl space somewhere, if your mother didn't get rid of it.” Sure enough, it was stowed away under the bed for YEARS, not been played for decades, just waiting for the right player to come along and open the box!! I told my Dad the story about how Kerry said it would be easier for me to learn since I played the flute ... and told him how much I loved saxophone and he said, it’s yours if you want it! It is the sax I play today, a 1927 Buscher! She is my baby, and I must say I love her very much! I had her overhauled completely at the time. Now I count on Dan Keller (at Rayburns) and Bob Drinkwater (Stoneham MA) to care for my vintage horn!

Inspired with sax in hand, I took up lessons the last years of undergraduate school. I would go out to hear music as many nights as I could in college, living in Providence RI. I frequented the local blues scene there ... including clubs like the old ... "Meet Me @ The Met," "Last Call Saloon," "Lupos," etc. Of course two of my favorite sax players from RI then were Greg Abate (his band was called Channel One back then and he played every Thursday night in Providence with AMAZING players like Lenny Bradford!) and the other classic great player who inspired and still inspires me is Greg Piccolo (who was in Roomful of Blues then and now tours with Jimmie Vaughan). I also took lessons with John Payne (John Payne School of Music in Brookline MA) and played in the Sax Orchestra for a while. John was very special in inspring me and giving me the confidence to play out in a band, made me feel it was OK if I played a bad note every once in a while. If you want to play music and wait until you can only play it perfect, you’ll never play out, and I wanted to play out. I started playing in an ensemble within his school, under his direction. It was really great and I recall my FIRST LIVE PERFORMANCE IN RYLES JAZZ CLUB (Cambridge) was the Battle of the Bands he put together for his student ensembles. It was so cool, and I knew I was hooked and wanted to play more and more. Eventually I got the confidence to show up and play at Blues Jams and crash parties where I knew there were blues bands playing. Along this path I met Gary Bernath (from the Metrowest Area) and started playing with his band. Gary has also had a great musical blues career playing harmonica, sax and singing in his own band playing clubs like the Angry Ham Garage and the Chicken Bone, etc.

When I got married, I got pregnant early in the marriage and decided to stop playing. It was hard enough working a full time job, being a new wife, and now mommy-to-be! My daughter Gabrielle was a delight, but it was too much to juggle. However, when my daughter was about 3 years old I realized I was missing something ... the music ... so I started playing again and I am so glad I did. I started playing at rehearsals with some of my friends and then I did an audition with a band called JUGGERKNOT. They were a Boston GB Band that did a lot of SOUL and current and classic ROCK (sax, keys, bass, drums, guitar and lead female vocals). I also got to play my flute in that band ... "Me and Julio," as I recall. We played fun clubs like the Green Dragon and Grand Canal in Boston. Eventually that band broke up and I stopped playing for a while and then about four years ago I picked up the horn again. In doing so, I sought out some of the great local horn players who had always inspired me with their talent ... Gordon Beadle, a.k.a. Sax Gordon, was performing at The Regatta Bar with David Maxwell. It was an amazing show. For years I wanted to take sax lessons with Gordon but since he was always on the road traveling to Europe, scheduling made it challenging. I was able to nail down a time frame for mentoring, and it changed my life. I really got into playing the kind of music that I have always loved, R&B. I started going to as many blues jams as I possibly could and met so many great and wonderful blues musicians over about the course of the first year I got back into playing. Many people would say to me, "I am putting a band together, would you be interested?" and I'd say, "yeah!," but then nothing would transpire. So one day I decided, I am putting a band together! I asked some of my favorite musicians who I had met over the years if they would be interested and sure enough, we formed Rosemary's Baby Blues (RBB). It has taken on a life form of its own and I must say, as much as it is a lot of work that people don't see behind the performance, it brings me (and I know the guys who play with the band) a lot of enjoyment. Music is a passion, and that is the driving force. I hope that I never stop playing music right up to the end just like those who I have admired, knowing who we recently lost in our blues community (I was just watching a video last night of Bruce McGrath (RIP) playing with Danny Banks and saw his picture on stage at the Cantab last week when I played there with Lois Lane, I was inspired and moved by him).

I have to credit Gordon Beadle for introducing me to a deeper world of blues music, sharing with me a vault of great music and the importance of the history behiind the music. This really has helped me a lot. And I guess the beautiful truth about playing music is you can never stop learning, it is perpetual. He introduced me to so many greats that I probably should have known (maybe had a little exposure to before but not enough). I really began to listen, to hear the uniqueness in different styles of playing, and develop opinions about what styles I gravitated to more than others and understand why. Too many to mention and you can read his influences on his website, but just to name a few, David "Fathead" Newman, King Curtis, Hank Crawford, Plas Johnson, Maceo, Arnett Cobb (!), Eddie Shaw ... many more, and then those great honkin’ horn players that didn't have the claim to fame (media exposure) like Clarence Clemmons did with Bruce, but were the Clemmons of their own day, like Grady Gaines (Little Richard's Honkin’ Sax Player)!

For me, listening and playing are key to my own personal growth as a sax player, and I passionately love doing so. Rosemary's Baby Blues has enjoyed having many great players over the years, including Sax Gordon, who has provided strong musical direction and was the force behind our original tunes like Goose Bump, Killin Time, and Sophie's Seranade (we recorded in Bill Smith’s Club 39 Studio). We have been lucky to benefit from his musical direction, while at the same time producing his own highly aclaimed CD just released, SHOWTIME! When I first established the band, we had Ron Levy on Keys (played with B.B .and Albert King, etc.), Big Jack Ward on Guitar (plays with Luther Guitar Jr. Johnson) -- the band has morphed over the years as happens with most bands. This is a band fronted by THE RBB HORNS (a.k.a. THE HORNY SECTION) which over the years has included the one and only Sax Gordon (Sax Idol); amazing world-renowned Trombonist, Lennie Peterson; Johnny "Blue Horn" Moriconi Trumpeter/Vocalist (who currently has his own band), and John Abrahamsen on Trumpet as well. We are excited to add Amadee Castenell (the great New Orleans player who has played and recorded with many, many greats - Google him to see the list) to the RBB Horn's list, as he will be performing a number of shows with us in the next few months. All the guys in the band today, including myself, play with other bands in addition to RBB. Larry Bassick, our drummer, is also in a rock band called "The Screaming Vincents" (for about 3 decades I believe)! Our new bass player, Joe Peck, is like the prodigy kid, who came to us from Ashland MA by way of his last band "Just Groove Me Live." Joe is a master of guitar, bass, drums and has an amazing vocal repertoire. Jim Atkinson, our guitarist/vocalist has also been playing the blues for several decades and for many years fronted his own band, "The West End Blues Band"! AND, we enjoy having Jeff "The Buzzard" Rutledge front our band with his lead vocals and Hootin' & Howlin' as he gets the crowd jumpin' on the dance floor! It's safe to say, never a dull moment at a Rosemary's Baby Blues Show! We can be found on Reverbnation and Facebook [links at the bottom of this article]

In addition to the Rosemary's Baby Blues project, I enjoy playing with different bands as well and I am in the process of putting together a really exciting show entitled the "Diva Blues Review" with some amazing female musicians featuring: Lisa Yves ~ Keys/Vocals (Lisa has written and produced several of her own CDs with original music and fronts the all-female rockin HRT band); Linda Bassick ~ Guitar/Vocal (Linda is from Burlington VT and has her own Mellow Yellow tribute band); Justine Klien (of the AeroChix) on Bass; Miki Matsuki on drums/purcussion (plays with HRT). The first show is scheduled for Friday August 9th at Pitman's Freight Room in Laconia NH (an absolutely awesome venue I might add). Our show will include a mix of great original tunes as well as classic blues covers from Aretha and Etta to Plas Johnson and Cannonball Adderly! It's sure to be a delightful and uplifting performance.

Additionally, I am the sax player for the all female ROCK band HRT! We will be performing on June 28th at the BBC in Walpole, MA.In August I have several shows with Jeff Dearborn and the Contoocook Blues Society. I will post all these dates on my personal Facebook Page if you are interested, but will just mention a few dates as we are featured on 8/16 at The Purple Pit (Concord NH); 8/23 at Boondocks (Weare NH); 8/25 at the Chili Festival (Henniker NH); 9/2 at the NH State Fair (Hopkinton NH) and 9/14 at The Center for The Arts (Concord NH). All in all, this makes for a busy summer. The blues community is full of wonderful people and musicians and I am thankful to be a part of it, so let's Play On!

<- back to Features